1. Unsolicited Advice for Callista Gingrich: Convince Trump the Holy See can be a serious partner in U.S. foreign policy

By Adam O’Neal, The Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2017, Pg. A13

A horde of newly minted Vatican experts descended on Twitter last week to analyze Pope Francis ’ meeting with President Trump. The pontiff frowned in some photos, these geniuses noticed, proving the Holy Father had joined #TheResistance. Such studying of papal body language is a waste of time for anyone who actually wants to understand U.S.-Vatican relations.

Look instead to Callista Gingrich, nominated last month to be Washington’s ambassador to the Holy See. Like the president who chose her, Mrs. Gingrich has been attacked as unqualified and morally deficient. The best response? Taking an ambitious approach to what’s often written off as a ceremonial position.

I spoke with several former ambassadors to the Vatican this week, and they have ideas for how Mrs. Gingrich can make the most of her time in Rome.

Mrs. Gingrich should explain to the president the extent of the Vatican’s reach. The Holy See has full diplomatic relations with more than 180 countries, an incredible potential resource for the U.S. “They have a very, very sophisticated diplomatic corps,” says Mr. Nicholson. “In the main they have no ulterior motives. They’re straightforward, honest people you can rely on.” Mr. Rooney adds that the Vatican’s diplomats “know as much about the world as our 7,000 people in Foggy Bottom.”

But tapping this resource isn’t a matter of deal making. “The Vatican doesn’t operate on a transactional basis. It’s all about relationships,” says Mr. Hackett. “She’s going to have to develop those relationships, and that takes a long time.” Take advantage of the entire State Department, suggests Mr. Díaz. “Bring another ambassador from Washington that deals with a specific region in the world,” he says. “Make sure they engage top-level Vatican officials interested in those issues.”


2. When President Trump Met Pope Francis

By Paul Kengor, Crisis Magazine, June 2, 2017

It was 35 years ago this coming week that a pope and a president met together at the Vatican—and went on to change the world.

It was Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan.

Well, given that landmark anniversary, it’s quite striking that another pope and president just last week first met together at the Vatican. This time it was Pope Francis and Donald Trump.

In terms of overall takeaways from the Francis-Trump meeting, there were many. The pope gave the president copies of his encyclical, Laudato Si, and his two major apostolic exhortations, Amoris Laetitia and Evangelii Gaudium. Trump responded appreciatively, telling the pontiff: “I’ll be reading them.” There were some awe-inspiring visuals, such as Melania and her humbled husband holding hands in the Sistine Chapel under Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.

But perhaps above all, remember Trump’s final words to the pope: “Good luck,” he said in his folksy, Trumpian way, adding to Francis: “Thank you. Thank you. I won’t forget what you said.”

That’s something we shouldn’t forget either, even if we don’t know precisely what was said. A relationship was begun, maybe even a long-term rapport. And as the pope-president meeting from 35 years ago this coming week showed—that between John Paul II and Ronald Reagan—when two leaders of this level meet, get along, and commit to something beyond them, important things can happen.


3. Rome’s ‘city under the city’ reveals the pioneers of the faith

By Claire Giangravè, Crux, June 2, 2017

The Catacombs of Domitilla, a vast web of tunnels and tombs used by early Christians for refuge and burial, is finding new life under the muck and mold thanks to restorations sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Art, which completed its work May 29 and will open the painted crypts to the public next month.

The catacombs “represent the concrete and legible testimony of ‘Christian death,’ seen by our early brothers as a provisory death in anticipation of the final Resurrection,” said Fabrizio Visconti, superintendent at the Commission, at the unveiling May 30.

The Catacombs extended for more than 7.4 miles, with two and sometimes four underground floors with a total of 26,250 tombs. The “city under the city” first started with the Ancient Roman tombs of the first century B.C. that multiplied during the second and third centuries after Christ, when it became a popular Christian burial ground.

Thanks to the work sponsored by the Pontifical Commission, the witness of the early Christians who dug their way underground in search of a resting place in anticipation of Judgment day lives on. Those first Catholic pioneers searched deep within the earth, not for gold, but for Heaven so that in the words of Carrù, “death does not have the final word.”


4. Draft of HHS Rule Pleases Religious-Liberty Advocates

By Kevin Jones, National Catholic Register, June 1, 2017

A leaked draft of a federal rule that would protect religious nonprofits from the controversial federal contraception mandate has won the support of religious-liberty advocates, who say that it is sorely needed.

“What the rule ultimately says, is that, given how widely available these products already are, there is simply no need for the government to force unwilling religious groups who serve the poor to provide them or to pay massive fines that would shut down these types of ministries,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said, “While they have yet to be formally issued and will require close study upon publication, the leaked regulations provide encouraging news.” He added, “If issued, these regulations would … lift the government-imposed burden on our ministries ‘to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.'”

At press time, the Trump administration had not confirmed whether the document, which directs the Department of Health and Human Services to dramatically broaden exemptions for employers who objected to the mandate on moral or religious grounds, had been approved or was still under review by federal agencies.